The US Government has been expanding in size and reach for decades. The federal budget, deficit, and government employee base is near an all-time high.
It wasn’t always like that. Many of America’s founders were Libertarian-minded and skeptical of the state, wanting only those parts of the government that were absolutely necessary.
However, there’s reason to believe that in the near future, government might dramatically shrink—not because of demands by fiscally astute Americans, but because of radical technology.
Indubitably, millions of government jobs will soon be replaced by robots. Even the US President could one day be replaced, which—strangely enough—might bring sanity to our election process.
But it’s not just robots, it’s software programs and weird new tech that will do thereplacing. Consider the over 1 million firefighters, a staple part of American government that also represents the ideal of service and career to one’s country. Companies around the world are now building fireproof everything, including couches, furniture, and building materials that simply don’t burn well. And intelligent robots—which I think will be in 50 percent of American households within five years time—will all have fire and carbon monoxide detectors.
In fact, I’m certain many in-home robots will not only be loaded with numerous security alert systems (like intruder alarms, flood warnings, and the ability to detect snakes, scorpions, and spiders) but will also be able to fix problems that occur. It’s likely in just a few years time, in-home robots costing less than a $1,000 dollars will know how to put out a fire with an extinguisher, turn off a flooding bathtub, or squish a black widow.
Each time a robot or software can save an emergency call to a firefighter or police officer, money, time, and resources are saved. Twenty-five years into the future, we may have little reason to call any government service employee whatsoever—and institutions like the fire department may be significantly smaller.
The same idea goes for employees of the Internal Revenue Service, whose jobs crunching numbers can be done by even basic AI. Meanwhile, drones will replace building inspectors by flying around construction projects to determine safety and building requirements are being met. Even the tens of thousands of govermenthighway workers will be replaced by driverless vehicles that automatically lay new roads down. Driverless construction equipment—just like a fully automated trucking industry—is the future. For that matter, even the White House may eventually turn to automated equipment such as driverless lawn mowers to cut its massive property lawns.
Twenty-five years into the future, we may have little reason to call any government service employee whatsoever.
It’s the military, though, where some of the robot revolution has already been witnessed on TV by many Americans. Instead of a company of troops on the ground, a single US soldier now sits in a military base on native soil controlling an armed drone thousands of miles away. America has approximately 2 million soldiers who can be quickly called up to service, but I think that number will quickly fall over the next decade as the US streamlines its military in the age of transhumanism—the age where machines do most of the work. Because national defense is such a large part of the Federal budget, this could save many billions of dollars for Americans.
Another area where technology can significantly help reduce government is the absurdly huge US prison system. Right now it costs almost four times the amount of money to run America’s nearly 5,000 prisons and jails than it does to run the US education system. But in the near future, we might use drones and robots to monitor criminals, both in and out of jail.
Many of our prisons are filled with nonviolent drug offenders, anyway, and I think we should let them all go free. If people and politicians are too afraid of that, we could just have drones or tracking devices monitor them. This way many nonviolent criminals could find jobs and start paying taxes—instead of being a drain on government resources. Another benefit would be that many prison guards wouldn’t need to be employed either, as there would be less criminals to monitor. Perhaps best of all, emptied prisons and jails owned by the government could be used for other things, like new colleges or job training centers.
I welcome this future smaller government as a result of evolving technology, and I hope that Americans will pay less in taxes as a result of it. In fact, I think it’s possible to offer more social services—including a Universal Basic Income—from the government to the people as a result of technology shrinking the administrative side. This would be a welcome arrangement, since the American government was founded to maximize the will and benefit of the people.
President John F. Kennedy famously said: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” But he wasn’t aware of the coming impact of the internet, the microprocessor, CRISPR gene editing technology, artificial intelligence, the robot revolution, or even people overcoming death with anti-agingscience. He wasn’t aware of how much this innovation would change the human race and the nature of government. If he had been, he might’ve said: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what technology your country should use to serve its citizens better.”
Zoltan Istvan is a futurist, author of The Transhumanist Wager, and a 2016 US Presidentialcandidate. He writes an occasional column for Motherboard in which he ruminates on the future beyond human ability.